After appearing in five films in Marvel’s Infinity Saga and eight episodes of WandaVision, Wanda Maximoff has finally been given a moniker to match her reality-bending abilities: the Scarlet Witch.
Though we’ve all likely referred to Wanda as the Scarlet Witch at some point over the last half-decade, Agatha Harkness is somehow the first to ever do it in the MCU. This makes sense in the larger context of the MCU, which has placed little emphasis on Wanda’s character or the roots of her magical powers. Up until this series, we’ve had to turn to outside materials to intuit anything about the character. But picking up right where the last episode left off, WandaVision uses its penultimate episode to take Wanda deeper into the world of witchcraft. Like many of the series’ very literal episode titles, this week’s installment is fittingly called “Previously On.” In it, Agatha and Wanda revisit some of the most crucial moments of Wanda’s life before finally unveiling how the Westview Anomaly came to be, while rewriting a proper origin story for the Scarlet Witch in the process.
But the episode also explains Agatha’s story. Despite appearing young in WandaVision, it turns out that she’s old—really old—like she is in the comics. The episode begins in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1693, in the midst of the infamous Salem witch trials. But instead of being captured by a horde of angry villagers, Agatha is being tried by a group of fellow witches who are attempting to bring her to justice after finding out that she’s been performing dark magic. However, Agatha’s witchcraft overwhelms the entire coven, as she seems to absorb their energy to de-age all of them. (Meaning: She turns them all into ghoulish corpses, rather than, like, stars of The Irishman.)
Centuries later, Agatha’s quest for power continues as she tries to understand how Wanda was able to cast a spell strong enough to simultaneously take control of thousands of people and create an entire town of illusions; a display of “magic on autopilot.” As Agatha holds Billy and Tommy ransom, she takes Wanda on a sad trip through some of the most important moments of Wanda’s life, as she attempts to solve the mystery of how the Scarlet Witch came to be.
For this week’s recap, we’re going to switch things up and break down each of those four memories, before checking in on Vision’s new look heading into next week’s season finale.
What’s Really Happening?
Sitcoms, Sokovia, and Stark Industries
The first memory that Wanda and Agatha revisit is from Wanda’s childhood: the last time she and her brother saw her parents alive. As Agatha quips, the Maximoff residence has a “Cold War aesthetic,” with echoes of gunfire coming in from the streets of war-torn Sokovia. For the first time, we glimpse Wanda’s parents, Iryna and Olek, as well as young Wanda, who is still happy and innocent before the first of many tragedies strike. The scene is also a callback to the Maximoff twins’ backstory, which Pietro explains to Ultron in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron:
We were 10 years old. Having dinner, the four of us. When the first shell hits, two floors below, it makes a hole in the floor. It’s big. Our parents go in and the whole building starts coming apart. I grab her, roll under the bed, and the second shell hits. But it doesn’t go off. It just sits there in the rubble, three feet from our faces. And on the side of the shell is painted one word.
As Pietro retells their tragic call to action, Wanda interjects with that one-word punch line: “Stark.” The twins add that they were trapped under that bed for two days waiting to be rescued or for Tony Stark’s missile to explode and kill them—but it never did.
With just a wee bit of clever retconning to smooth away the six-year gap between the scenes, WandaVision replays that Age of Ultron story in full, while also showing how the event is buried deep into Wanda’s subconscious. Rather than sitting around a dinner table, the Maximoff family is huddled around a television set watching an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. It turns out that watching old American sitcoms was a Maximoff family tradition; a fun way to learn English. Wanda has a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of Dick Van Dyke, but her father’s collection goes way deeper than that. Suddenly, it’s clear where Wanda was getting her source material for her own sitcom re-creations:
As Wanda, Pietro, and their parents watch the show with glee, the first shell hits. Just as they explained to that genocidal robot Ultron, Wanda and Pietro crawl under the bed just before the second shell hits. But the bomb didn’t fail to go off out of sheer dumb luck. As Agatha explains, young Wanda used a probability hex to render it defective. “So, what I see here is a baby witch, obsessed with sitcoms, and years of therapy ahead of her,” Agatha concludes. “Doesn’t explain your recent hijinks.”
Up until now, Wanda’s powers had been stated as being manufactured in a lab through the help of the Mind Stone. Largely unimpressed by the revelation of Wanda’s natural-born abilities, Agatha keeps the show moving along.
Infinity (Stone) and Beyond
Next up: Wanda heads to HYDRA. The HYDRA facility in Sokovia, where we first properly met Wanda and Pietro in Age of Ultron, was alleged to be the place where the siblings acquired their superpowers after Baron Strucker exposed them to the energy from Loki’s scepter. Yet, as WandaVision now re-explains, it turns out that the Scepter only enhanced Wanda’s existing powers.
Agatha and Wanda watch as Past Wanda enters a room that contains the scepter. Over the intercom, the HYDRA scientists direct her to touch the scepter, but before she can even approach it, the Mind Stone frees itself and approaches her. As Wanda reaches out to touch it, the Mind Stone bursts out of its outer blue shell, and—shrouded in the stone’s emanating orange light—Wanda sees the Scarlet Witch emerge before her:
Wanda collapses to the ground, but unlike previous subjects who came into contact with the magical gem, she survives. The scientists return her to isolation, where Wanda can later be seen eerily sitting in her cell in silence, using her mind to project an episode of The Brady Bunch onto a TV screen. (Or at least, it seems like she’s projecting the show with her mind. If not, HYDRA really has to reconsider how it accommodates their test subjects.)
“Little orphan Wanda got up close and personal with an Infinity Stone that amplified what otherwise would’ve died on the vine,” Agatha helpfully summarizes.
Falling in Love With Vision
Following Pietro’s death in Age of Ultron, Wanda traveled to her new home at the Avengers compound in America. Now, with Agatha still guiding the tour, present-day Wanda finds her past self deep in depression, yet also learning how to love again—all while Bryan Cranston acts a fool on Malcolm in the Middle in the background.
Wanda is sitting alone in her room watching TV when Vision enters through the wall to try to console her. Given Wanda’s initially cold response to Vision, as well as the robot’s still nascent understanding of human interaction, it’s clear this scene takes place in the very early stages of their relationship. When Wanda realizes that Vision is only trying to help, she opens up, and explains how she feels like she’s drowning in her grief as she mourns her brother. Though he may not know much about sitcoms, Vision strings together all the right words in response. “It can’t all be sorrow, can it?” Vision asks her. “I’ve always been alone, so I don’t feel the lack. It’s all I’ve ever known. I’ve never experienced loss because I have never had a loved one to lose. But what is grief, if not love persevering?”
The last bit is a hell of a line and a genuinely touching moment from the ever-noble synthezoid, as Vision (and Cranston) is able to bring a smile to Wanda’s face again—but it doesn’t seem to do much for Agatha. “So to recap,” Agatha says with a sigh. “Parents dead, brother dead, Vision dead. What happened when he wasn’t there to pull you back from the darkness, Wanda?”
While Wanda cries after reliving the moment when she likely fell in love with Vision, Agatha has no chill—which we already really knew after she gloated about killing a dog—and continues to push Wanda deeper into her memory to unpack how she created Westview. And finally, with enough of a push, Wanda brings us to the day it all went down.
Welcome to Westview
Agatha and Wanda arrive at S.W.O.R.D. headquarters to watch as Past Wanda hopes to reclaim Vision’s corpse following his death at the hands of Thanos. And though director Hayward had previously shown clips of Wanda storming S.W.O.R.D. headquarters to steal Vision’s body in the fifth episode, the whole event plays out just a little bit differently than how Hayward had framed it.
After Wanda briefly gets held up in the lobby, Hayward agrees to hear her out as she makes her case for taking Vision’s body so she can properly bury him. Unsurprisingly, Hayward sees Vision as a multibillion-dollar piece of property—a powerful sentient weapon—and refuses. And then, like an absolute dick, he proudly shows Wanda how his team is dismantling Vision’s body, stripping him for parts like an old car. Using enough force to raise some eyebrows (and some guns), Wanda takes a shortcut into the lab to get a closer look at her lover’s desecrated corpse. When she can’t feel any trace of Vision left in his lifeless body, however, she simply leaves empty-handed, returning to her car in peace.
But Wanda’s memory doesn’t end there. She drives all the way to Westview, New Jersey, passing by some familiar faces—such as Herb, Phil, and Mrs. Hart—who are carrying out their regular lives in what is a noticeably run-down community. She eventually pulls up to an empty plot of land and pulls out a property deed granted to Wanda Maximoff and Vision. Walking right into the center of where their house would’ve stood, Wanda falls to her knees, and unleashes grief—and her powers—in full. In a matter of seconds, Wanda builds their home, sends Westview back to the 1950s, re-creates Vision from scratch, and brings us back to where WandaVision all started.
Finally satisfied, Agatha ends the tour of Wanda’s most personal memories with a classic slow clap. She vanishes into a cloud of her trademark purple smoke, reappearing out on the street rocking some spooky new clothes and with the twins in captivity:
“You have no idea how dangerous you are,” Agatha tells Wanda. “You’re supposed to be a myth. A being capable of spontaneous creation, and here you are, using it to make breakfast for dinner. … This is chaos magic, Wanda. And that makes you the Scarlet Witch.”
After seeing Wanda’s life story unfold, Agatha concludes that Wanda is a powerful witch of mythical proportions—even if she doesn’t know it. All season long, Agatha had remained under the shadowy (and sassy) guise of Agnes, studying Wanda’s actions while carefully manipulating her along the way. In the eighth episode, we learn that her motive was to understand how Wanda could unleash such powerful magic so that she too could wield it, but in the end, she finds out that Wanda’s abilities are only the stuff of legend. (And being ancient herself, Agatha should know.)
After fully realizing her true roots, and watching her children dangled before her, it may be time for the Scarlet Witch to properly introduce herself to Westview.
White Vision and Next Week on WandaVision
Hidden within another sneaky mid-credits scene was a moment worthy of being a episode-ending cliff-hanger itself, as S.W.O.R.D. finally launches its secretive Project Cataract. Using energy from Wanda’s Westview hex as a source of power, director Hayward finishes off the plan he had all along: bringing Vision back to life. Though it appears that he successfully brought his sentient weapon back online, however, the Vision that awakens is by no means the same synthezoid that was worthy of lifting Thor’s hammer.
The all-white version of Vision has ties to the comic books, most notably in his “Vision Quest” story arc from the West Coast Avengers in the 1980s. Like in WandaVision, the white Vision is created after his original body is destroyed, dismantled, and pieced back together. But just as his new synthezoid skin is devoid of all color, the resurrected Vision has lost all traces of his humanity.
Looking ahead to next week’s season finale, the stakes are set. The newly dubbed Scarlet Witch is about to throw magical hands with Agatha Harkness in order to save her children—and potentially herself. The original Vision (or, at least, Wanda’s re-creation of him) is still flying around somewhere in search of his wife, while a S.W.O.R.D.-manufactured copy is moments away from being sent into Westview to kill Wanda. Darcy’s still riding around in a funnel cake truck, and Monica, with her recently acquired superpowers, is likely being held captive by Fake Pietro. (Speaking of which, if the internet was able to make a rock rendition of “Agatha All Along” within 24 hours, I really hope someone out there whips up a photoshop of Guy Fietro in the very near future.)
Come back next week as we find out how it all ends, and how the Scarlet Witch will manage to find herself in the multiverse of madness.